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Today I Went to Church, Part 2

Today I went to church.

I didn’t want to go, but I went anyway. 

I’ve gone to church almost every week my whole life. But not always joyfully. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to be with other people. Other times I’m not in the mood to worship God in the ways church services facilitate. Occasionally I want to linger at home in the morning instead of rushing to get ready. There’s a variety of other reasons that hinder my attendance – including some more vulnerable ones I may share in another post someday.

But today I went even though I didn’t want to. 

I was greeted at the door by kind volunteers. I found my regular seat. I stood for the songs. I sat for the sermon. I said hello to the people around me. At the final amen, I left. 

Sometimes it’s really hard to go to church. This is especially true if you’ve experienced more pain than hope in a church building or from people who call themselves followers of Jesus. Unfortunately, these experiences can change people’s view of God. I understand why it can happen, and I’m sympathetic to it. I myself have experienced a lot of hurt from churches and church people. Judgment for my choices, oppression because of my gender, silencing of my opinions… These are just a few of the pains I have dealt with. 

The first time I felt pain from a church person, I decided to not let people change my perception of God

It hurt. I cried. My relationship with the people who caused the pain changed. The way I showed up at church and the things I volunteered to help with changed. But my faith in God didn’t.

I knew the hurt they were causing “in the name of Jesus” did not align with who Jesus actually was. I refused to let those people, or what they were saying in those moments, represent the God I had grown to know and love through reading Scripture and studying theology. My relationship with those people may have changed; but I wouldn’t let them change my relationship with God. 

I realized this meant I shouldn’t also assume that all of the helpful things church people said should influence my perception of God, either. Usually, the love, mercy, and grace that’s done “in the name of Jesus” can be accepted. But I had to ensure that my relationship with God was built off of more than just good sermons, healthy churches, and loving people. Instead, if I wouldn’t automatically accept the bad, I couldn’t automatically accept the good either. I had to grow my faith independently. 

To be clear, independent does not mean isolated. I listened to churches and church people. I heard and accepted a lot of what was taught. But I didn’t accept it blindly, without question or research. I consulted the Bible, church history, tradition, culture, world history, personal experience, and Judaism, my ancestral faith. My relationship with God was and continues to be built on a kaleidoscope of theology, anthropology, and sociology. The church and church people are only a small part of that equation. 

If you find yourself in this same position – having been hurt by the church or church people – I would encourage you to just seek God. You can do this by reading the Bible – words that are designed to show God’s character and share his plan of redemption and freedom from sin and shame. Beyond this, listen to podcasts and sermons from multiple churches, seminaries, and faith traditions. Find a small group like Bible Study Fellowship, Moms of Preschoolers, Celebrate Recovery, DivorceCare, GriefShare, or ALPHA which usually consist of people from varying denominations and experiences. 

Lastly, commit to being part of a church community. I know, it may sound like I’m asking you to walk into the fiery furnace or jump into the lion’s den. After all, I just basically said “you can’t trust everyone in the church!” But for some reason, God intended for community to be part of a thriving relationship with him. So maybe don’t start here if you’ve experienced pain and hurt, but I ask you to eventually try again. Try attending a church of a different size, different denomination, or different style of worship. Try some in person and online, some local and some across the globe. 

There are plenty of people in the church you can’t trust. But there are also many you can. Just like there are good teachers and bad teachers, good doctors and bad doctors, there are good pastors and bad pastors. I remember in college I had a class with a professor I really didn’t like. He was rude and lacked compassion. So I quit his class. But I still took it with another professor. I didn’t let it change my degree or ruin my studies. My impression of my college wasn’t ruined because of this one condescending professor. My semester was altered, and my class schedule did change. But I didn’t quit school because of it. And today, I don’t even remember his name! I sure am glad I didn’t let a man whose name I can’t remember decide whether or not I got a college degree.

Today I went to church. I didn’t want to go but I went. Even though it was hard, it was not without hope.

Thanks for making this a part of your day!
Feel free to share it with others!

2 Responses

  1. I am a member of a United Methodist Church. Lately all they do us have one fund raiser after another. The pastor never teaches about tithing or any offering. I prefer not to spend my time in fundraising and believe that if everyone gave of their means, we would not have to have soup suppers and bazaars. We are now attending a very small non- denominational church most Sundays.

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